Multiscale directed self-assembly of composite microgels in complex electric fields
This study explored the application of localized electric fields for reversible directed self-assembly of colloidal particles in 3 dimensions. Electric field microgradients, arising from the use of micro-patterned electrodes, were utilized to direct the localization and self-assembly of polarizable (charged) particles resulting from a combination of dielectrophoretic and multipolar forces. Deionized dispersions of spherical and ellipsoidal core–shell microgels were employed for investigating their assembly under an external alternating electric field. We demonstrated that the frequency of the field allowed for an exquisite control over the localization of the particles and their self-assembled structures near the electrodes. We extended this approach to concentrated binary dispersions consisting of polarizable and less polarizable composite microgels. Furthermore, we utilized the thermosensitivity of the microgels to adjust the effective volume fraction and the dynamics of the system, which provided the possibility to dynamically “solidify” the assembly of the field-responsive particles by a temperature quench from their initial fluid state into an arrested crystalline state. Reversible solidification enables us to re-write/reconstruct various 3 dimensional assemblies by varying the applied field frequency.